Barcelona swamp Real Betis but lose Lionel Messihttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/barcelona-swamp-real-betis-but-lose-lionel-messi/

Barcelona swamp Real Betis but lose Lionel Messi

A Cesc Fabregas double helped Barcelona maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

A Cesc Fabregas double helped Barcelona maintain their unbeaten start to the season with a 4-1 win at bottom side Real Betis to move three points clear in La Liga on Sunday although they lost Lionel Messi to injury.

Barca now have 37 points from 13 games ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid,who were denied a couple of hours on the summit when Juanfran put the ball into his own net late on in a 1-1 draw at Villarreal,who also scored an own goal.

Barcelona midfielder Fabregas struck twice in the second half after quickfire goals from Neymar and Pedro in the 35th and 37th minutes had settled the champions,who required three top class saves from Victor Valdes before they took control.

Messi had been replaced by Andres Iniesta after 21 minutes as the World Player of the Year called for a change with a hamstring injury before Fabregas squared for Brazil forward Neymar to sidefoot the opener into an empty net.

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Pedro’s goal two minutes later was outstanding as the Spain forward burst forward from his own half,raced into the area and curled a shot inside the far post.

SUBLIME PASS

BETIS struck the post early in the second half,but a sublime pass from Iniesta saw Marc Montoya set up Fabregas to score a third after 63 minutes and the former Arsenal captain then headed a fourth goal in off the post in the 79th.

A Betis penalty at the end from Jorge Molina was little more than a consolation.

“These games are important for me to be able to prove myself,” Fabregas,who is to have tests on a sore knee ligament,said after the match.

Real Madrid sit third with 31 points after Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in their 5-1 home rout of Real Sociedad on Saturday. Promoted Villarreal are fourth with 24.

Juventus beat Napoli

ANDREA Pirlo and Paul Pogba scored spectacular second-half goals to help titleholders Juventus beat Napoli 3-0 on Sunday,closing the gap on Serie A leaders AS Roma to one point and leaving their opponents trailing in third place.

Playmaker Pirlo fired a viciously dipping free kick over the Napoli wall from nearly 30 metres,then Pogba collected a pass,flicked the ball up and volleyed home from a similar distance beyond a bemused Pepe Reina six minutes later.

Roma,who won their first 10 games,were held to a second successive 1-1 draw after conceding a 94th minute equaliser at home to lowly Serie A newcomers Sassuolo.

Familiar routines continued at Fiorentina,where Giuseppe Rossi scored two more goals in a 2-1 win over troubled Sampdoria,and AC Milan,who remained in crisis mode after a goalless draw at bottom club Chievo.

Beset by their usual injury troubles and with boardroom disquiet reportedly brewing in the background,Milan fluffed several good chances as they extended their winless run to six games in all competitions.

Juventus made a flying start and Reina had already stopped one Pogba effort before Fernando Llorente turned in a deflected shot from close range after only two minutes.

STUNNING GOALS

Reina brilliantly stopped close range headers from Leonardo Bonucci and Llorente before halftime,although Napoli came back into the match after the break with Lorenzo Insigne always menacing.

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Juventus settled the match in six stunning minutes,which began with Pirlo scoring from a typically majestic free kick before he was upstaged by Pogba,the player tipped to take over his mantle when the 34-year-old eventually retires.

“I was happy with my goal,but I’m happier with the win,” Pirlo said. Roma lead with 32 points from 12 games,with Juventus on 31 and Rafael Benitez’s Napoli on 28 after their second league defeat of the season.

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